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Albania Refuses Syria’s Weapons

  • Thousands of Albanians in Tirana, Friday Nov. 15, 2013 greet the announcement by Prime Minister Edi Rama saying he turned down a request by the United States to be part of an operation to destroy Syria's chemical weapons stockpile, under the supervision of international experts. Albania, a NATO member, was seen as a possible choice since it recently destroyed its own poison gas arsenal. (AP Photo/Hektor Pusina)

    Thousands of Albanians in Tirana, Friday Nov. 15, 2013 greet the announcement by Prime Minister Edi Rama saying he turned down a request by the United States to be part of an operation to destroy Syria's chemical weapons stockpile, under the supervision of international experts. Albania, a NATO member, was seen as a possible choice since it recently destroyed its own poison gas arsenal. (AP Photo/Hektor Pusina)

  • Thousands of Albanians in Tirana, Friday Nov. 15, 2013 greet the announcement by Prime Minister Edi Rama saying he turned down a request by the United States to be part of an operation to destroy Syria's chemical weapons stockpile, under the supervision of international experts. Albania, a NATO member, was seen as a possible choice since it recently destroyed its own poison gas arsenal. (AP Photo/Hektor Pusina)

    Thousands of Albanians in Tirana, Friday Nov. 15, 2013 greet the announcement by Prime Minister Edi Rama saying he turned down a request by the United States to be part of an operation to destroy Syria's chemical weapons stockpile, under the supervision of international experts. Albania, a NATO member, was seen as a possible choice since it recently destroyed its own poison gas arsenal. (AP Photo/Hektor Pusina)

  • Thousands Albanians gather to celebrate the announcement made by Prime Minsiter Edi Rama saying he turned down a request by the Untied States to host an operation to destroy Syria's chemical weapons stockpile on Albanian soil, in Tirana, Friday Nov. 15, 2013.  The U.S. asked the impoverished Balkan country to agree to destroying the chemical weapons under the supervision of international experts. (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina)

    Thousands Albanians gather to celebrate the announcement made by Prime Minsiter Edi Rama saying he turned down a request by the Untied States to host an operation to destroy Syria's chemical weapons stockpile on Albanian soil, in Tirana, Friday Nov. 15, 2013. The U.S. asked the impoverished Balkan country to agree to destroying the chemical weapons under the supervision of international experts. (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina)

  • Thousands Albanians gather to celebrate the announcement made by Prime Minsiter Edi Rama saying he turned down a request by the Untied States to host an operation to destroy Syria's chemical weapons stockpile on Albanian soil, in Tirana, Friday Nov. 15, 2013.  The U.S. asked the impoverished Balkan country to agree to destroying the chemical weapons under the supervision of international experts. (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina)

    Thousands Albanians gather to celebrate the announcement made by Prime Minsiter Edi Rama saying he turned down a request by the Untied States to host an operation to destroy Syria's chemical weapons stockpile on Albanian soil, in Tirana, Friday Nov. 15, 2013. The U.S. asked the impoverished Balkan country to agree to destroying the chemical weapons under the supervision of international experts. (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina)

  • People wearing gas masks and posters reading "Stop to the chemical weapons" during a protest in front of the Albanian Embassy in Skopje, Macedonia, on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013.  The protests in Macedonia are supporting separate protest groups in nearby Albania, who reject plans to destroy Syrian chemical weapons in Albania. (AP Photo/Boris Grdanoski)

    People wearing gas masks and posters reading "Stop to the chemical weapons" during a protest in front of the Albanian Embassy in Skopje, Macedonia, on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013. The protests in Macedonia are supporting separate protest groups in nearby Albania, who reject plans to destroy Syrian chemical weapons in Albania. (AP Photo/Boris Grdanoski)

  • An Albanian student wears a gas mask and holds a sign  during a protest against chemical weapons during a  protest against the dismantling of Syrian chemical weapons in Albania in front of the Prime Minister's office in Tirana  Thursday Nov. 14, 2013.  Albania, a member of NATO,  has said it is studying a request by the United States to host facilities for destroying Syria's chemical weapons, but has not yet taken a decision.  (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina)

    An Albanian student wears a gas mask and holds a sign during a protest against chemical weapons during a protest against the dismantling of Syrian chemical weapons in Albania in front of the Prime Minister's office in Tirana Thursday Nov. 14, 2013. Albania, a member of NATO, has said it is studying a request by the United States to host facilities for destroying Syria's chemical weapons, but has not yet taken a decision. (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina)

  • Demonstrators  protest against the dismantling of Syrian chemical weapons in Albania in front of the Prime Minister's office in Tirana  Thursday Nov. 14, 2013.  Albania, a member of NATO,  has said it is studying a request by the United States to host facilities for destroying Syria's chemical weapons, but has not yet taken a decision.  (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina)

    Demonstrators protest against the dismantling of Syrian chemical weapons in Albania in front of the Prime Minister's office in Tirana Thursday Nov. 14, 2013. Albania, a member of NATO, has said it is studying a request by the United States to host facilities for destroying Syria's chemical weapons, but has not yet taken a decision. (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina)

  • Albania's Prime Minister Edi Rama speaks in a televised address to Albanians in Tirana, Albania, Friday, Nov. 15, 2013. Rama turned down a request by the United States to be part of an operation to destroy Syria's chemical weapons stockpile. The announcement comes after days of protests across the country. (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina)

    Albania's Prime Minister Edi Rama speaks in a televised address to Albanians in Tirana, Albania, Friday, Nov. 15, 2013. Rama turned down a request by the United States to be part of an operation to destroy Syria's chemical weapons stockpile. The announcement comes after days of protests across the country. (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina)

  • Albania's Prime Minister Edi Rama speaks in a televised address to Albanians in Tirana, Albania, Friday, Nov. 15, 2013. Rama turned down a request by the United States to be part of an operation to destroy Syria's chemical weapons stockpile. The announcement comes after days of protests across the country. (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina)

    Albania's Prime Minister Edi Rama speaks in a televised address to Albanians in Tirana, Albania, Friday, Nov. 15, 2013. Rama turned down a request by the United States to be part of an operation to destroy Syria's chemical weapons stockpile. The announcement comes after days of protests across the country. (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina)

  • Thousands of Albanians in Tirana, Friday Nov. 15, 2013, greet the announcement by Prime Minister Edi Rama saying he turned down a request by the United States to be part of an operation to destroy Syria's chemical weapons stockpile, under the supervision of international experts. Albania, a NATO member, was seen as a possible choice since it recently destroyed its own poison gas arsenal. (AP Photo/Hektor Pusina)

    Thousands of Albanians in Tirana, Friday Nov. 15, 2013, greet the announcement by Prime Minister Edi Rama saying he turned down a request by the United States to be part of an operation to destroy Syria's chemical weapons stockpile, under the supervision of international experts. Albania, a NATO member, was seen as a possible choice since it recently destroyed its own poison gas arsenal. (AP Photo/Hektor Pusina)

  • Thousands of Albanians in Tirana, Friday Nov. 15, 2013, greet the announcement by Prime Minister Edi Rama saying he turned down a request by the United States to be part of an operation to destroy Syria's chemical weapons stockpile, under the supervision of international experts. Albania, a NATO member, was seen as a possible choice since it recently destroyed its own poison gas arsenal. (AP Photo/Hektor Pusina)

    Thousands of Albanians in Tirana, Friday Nov. 15, 2013, greet the announcement by Prime Minister Edi Rama saying he turned down a request by the United States to be part of an operation to destroy Syria's chemical weapons stockpile, under the supervision of international experts. Albania, a NATO member, was seen as a possible choice since it recently destroyed its own poison gas arsenal. (AP Photo/Hektor Pusina)

  • Thousands of Albanians in Tirana, Friday Nov. 15  2013 greet the announcement  by Prime Minister Edi Rama saying he turned down a request by the United States to be part of an operation to destroy Syria's chemical weapons stockpile, under the supervision of international experts. Albania, a NATO member, was seen as a possible choice since it recently destroyed its own poison gas arsenal.(AP Photo/Hektor Pusina)

    Thousands of Albanians in Tirana, Friday Nov. 15 2013 greet the announcement by Prime Minister Edi Rama saying he turned down a request by the United States to be part of an operation to destroy Syria's chemical weapons stockpile, under the supervision of international experts. Albania, a NATO member, was seen as a possible choice since it recently destroyed its own poison gas arsenal.(AP Photo/Hektor Pusina)

  • Thousands of Albanians in Tirana, Friday Nov. 15  2013 greet the announcement  by Prime Minister Edi Rama saying he turned down a request by the United States to be part of an operation to destroy Syria's chemical weapons stockpile, under the supervision of international experts. Albania, a NATO member, was seen as a possible choice since it recently destroyed its own poison gas arsenal.(AP Photo/Hektor Pusina)

    Thousands of Albanians in Tirana, Friday Nov. 15 2013 greet the announcement by Prime Minister Edi Rama saying he turned down a request by the United States to be part of an operation to destroy Syria's chemical weapons stockpile, under the supervision of international experts. Albania, a NATO member, was seen as a possible choice since it recently destroyed its own poison gas arsenal.(AP Photo/Hektor Pusina)

  • Albania's Prime Minister Edi Rama gestures during a televised address to Albanians in Tirana, Albania, Friday, Nov. 15, 2013. Rama turned down a request by the United States to be part of an operation to destroy Syria's chemical weapons stockpile. The announcement comes after days of protests across the country. (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina)

    Albania's Prime Minister Edi Rama gestures during a televised address to Albanians in Tirana, Albania, Friday, Nov. 15, 2013. Rama turned down a request by the United States to be part of an operation to destroy Syria's chemical weapons stockpile. The announcement comes after days of protests across the country. (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina)

  • Albania's Prime Minister Edi Rama gestures during a televised address to Albanians in Tirana, Albania, Friday, Nov. 15, 2013. Rama turned down a request by the United States to be part of an operation to destroy Syria's chemical weapons stockpile. The announcement comes after days of protests across the country. (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina)

    Albania's Prime Minister Edi Rama gestures during a televised address to Albanians in Tirana, Albania, Friday, Nov. 15, 2013. Rama turned down a request by the United States to be part of an operation to destroy Syria's chemical weapons stockpile. The announcement comes after days of protests across the country. (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina)

  • Miles Scott, dressed as Batkid, right, walks with Batman before saving a damsel in distress in San Francisco, Friday, Nov. 15, 2013.  San Francisco turned into Gotham City on Friday, as city officials helped fulfill Scott's wish to be "Batkid." Scott, a leukemia patient from Tulelake in far Northern California, was called into service on Friday morning by San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr to help fight crime, The Greater Bay Area Make-A-Wish Foundation says. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

    Miles Scott, dressed as Batkid, right, walks with Batman before saving a damsel in distress in San Francisco, Friday, Nov. 15, 2013. San Francisco turned into Gotham City on Friday, as city officials helped fulfill Scott's wish to be "Batkid." Scott, a leukemia patient from Tulelake in far Northern California, was called into service on Friday morning by San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr to help fight crime, The Greater Bay Area Make-A-Wish Foundation says. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

  • Thousands of Albanians in Tirana, Friday Nov. 15, 2013 greet the announcement by Prime Minister Edi Rama saying he turned down a request by the United States to be part of an operation to destroy Syria's chemical weapons stockpile, under the supervision of international experts. Albania, a NATO member, was seen as a possible choice since it recently destroyed its own poison gas arsenal. (AP Photo/Hektor Pusina)
  • Thousands of Albanians in Tirana, Friday Nov. 15, 2013 greet the announcement by Prime Minister Edi Rama saying he turned down a request by the United States to be part of an operation to destroy Syria's chemical weapons stockpile, under the supervision of international experts. Albania, a NATO member, was seen as a possible choice since it recently destroyed its own poison gas arsenal. (AP Photo/Hektor Pusina)
  • Thousands Albanians gather to celebrate the announcement made by Prime Minsiter Edi Rama saying he turned down a request by the Untied States to host an operation to destroy Syria's chemical weapons stockpile on Albanian soil, in Tirana, Friday Nov. 15, 2013.  The U.S. asked the impoverished Balkan country to agree to destroying the chemical weapons under the supervision of international experts. (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina)
  • Thousands Albanians gather to celebrate the announcement made by Prime Minsiter Edi Rama saying he turned down a request by the Untied States to host an operation to destroy Syria's chemical weapons stockpile on Albanian soil, in Tirana, Friday Nov. 15, 2013.  The U.S. asked the impoverished Balkan country to agree to destroying the chemical weapons under the supervision of international experts. (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina)
  • People wearing gas masks and posters reading "Stop to the chemical weapons" during a protest in front of the Albanian Embassy in Skopje, Macedonia, on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013.  The protests in Macedonia are supporting separate protest groups in nearby Albania, who reject plans to destroy Syrian chemical weapons in Albania. (AP Photo/Boris Grdanoski)
  • An Albanian student wears a gas mask and holds a sign  during a protest against chemical weapons during a  protest against the dismantling of Syrian chemical weapons in Albania in front of the Prime Minister's office in Tirana  Thursday Nov. 14, 2013.  Albania, a member of NATO,  has said it is studying a request by the United States to host facilities for destroying Syria's chemical weapons, but has not yet taken a decision.  (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina)
  • Demonstrators  protest against the dismantling of Syrian chemical weapons in Albania in front of the Prime Minister's office in Tirana  Thursday Nov. 14, 2013.  Albania, a member of NATO,  has said it is studying a request by the United States to host facilities for destroying Syria's chemical weapons, but has not yet taken a decision.  (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina)
  • Albania's Prime Minister Edi Rama speaks in a televised address to Albanians in Tirana, Albania, Friday, Nov. 15, 2013. Rama turned down a request by the United States to be part of an operation to destroy Syria's chemical weapons stockpile. The announcement comes after days of protests across the country. (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina)
  • Albania's Prime Minister Edi Rama speaks in a televised address to Albanians in Tirana, Albania, Friday, Nov. 15, 2013. Rama turned down a request by the United States to be part of an operation to destroy Syria's chemical weapons stockpile. The announcement comes after days of protests across the country. (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina)
  • Thousands of Albanians in Tirana, Friday Nov. 15, 2013, greet the announcement by Prime Minister Edi Rama saying he turned down a request by the United States to be part of an operation to destroy Syria's chemical weapons stockpile, under the supervision of international experts. Albania, a NATO member, was seen as a possible choice since it recently destroyed its own poison gas arsenal. (AP Photo/Hektor Pusina)
  • Thousands of Albanians in Tirana, Friday Nov. 15, 2013, greet the announcement by Prime Minister Edi Rama saying he turned down a request by the United States to be part of an operation to destroy Syria's chemical weapons stockpile, under the supervision of international experts. Albania, a NATO member, was seen as a possible choice since it recently destroyed its own poison gas arsenal. (AP Photo/Hektor Pusina)
  • Thousands of Albanians in Tirana, Friday Nov. 15  2013 greet the announcement  by Prime Minister Edi Rama saying he turned down a request by the United States to be part of an operation to destroy Syria's chemical weapons stockpile, under the supervision of international experts. Albania, a NATO member, was seen as a possible choice since it recently destroyed its own poison gas arsenal.(AP Photo/Hektor Pusina)
  • Thousands of Albanians in Tirana, Friday Nov. 15  2013 greet the announcement  by Prime Minister Edi Rama saying he turned down a request by the United States to be part of an operation to destroy Syria's chemical weapons stockpile, under the supervision of international experts. Albania, a NATO member, was seen as a possible choice since it recently destroyed its own poison gas arsenal.(AP Photo/Hektor Pusina)
  • Albania's Prime Minister Edi Rama gestures during a televised address to Albanians in Tirana, Albania, Friday, Nov. 15, 2013. Rama turned down a request by the United States to be part of an operation to destroy Syria's chemical weapons stockpile. The announcement comes after days of protests across the country. (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina)
  • Albania's Prime Minister Edi Rama gestures during a televised address to Albanians in Tirana, Albania, Friday, Nov. 15, 2013. Rama turned down a request by the United States to be part of an operation to destroy Syria's chemical weapons stockpile. The announcement comes after days of protests across the country. (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina)
  • Miles Scott, dressed as Batkid, right, walks with Batman before saving a damsel in distress in San Francisco, Friday, Nov. 15, 2013.  San Francisco turned into Gotham City on Friday, as city officials helped fulfill Scott's wish to be "Batkid." Scott, a leukemia patient from Tulelake in far Northern California, was called into service on Friday morning by San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr to help fight crime, The Greater Bay Area Make-A-Wish Foundation says. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Tirana, Albania — The mission to destroy Syria’s poison gas stockpile was dealt a serious blow Friday when Albania refused to host the destruction, but the global chemical weapons watchdog said it is still confident it can eradicate the arsenal outside Syria by the middle of next year.

The surprise refusal by the small and impoverished Balkan country left open the question of where the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons would send Syria’s estimated 1,300-ton arsenal, which includes mustard gas and sarin.

“I can’t name a country at this point, but obviously there are options and there are ways in which this can be accomplished,” senior OPCW official Malik Ellahi said at the organization’s headquarters at The Hague, Netherlands.

Syria has said it wants the weapons destroyed outside the country, which is in the throes of civil war.

Albania had been considered the strongest hope, and few diplomats expected the NATO country of 2.8 million people to reject what Prime Minister Edi Rama said had been a direct request from the U.S.

But the plan was unpopular in Albania, and young protesters had camped outside Rama’s office to oppose it, fearing it would be a health and environmental hazard.

Chemical weapons have to be incinerated at extremely high temperatures or neutralized using other chemicals — both costly, risky and time-consuming operations that require specialized machinery.

In a televised address from the capital of Tirana, Rama said that it was “impossible for Albania to take part in this operation” — an announcement that brought a loud cheer from some of the 2,000 protesters.

Rama said he rejected the request because other countries, which he did not identify, were not prepared to be a part of the operation.

The OPCW’s Ellahi said: “It was a sovereign decision that Albania has taken.”

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Jan Psaki said the decision would not hurt U.S.-Albanian relations.

“We appreciate Albania looking seriously at hosting the destruction of chemical weapons,” she said. “The international community continues to discuss the most effective and expeditious means for eliminating Syria’s chemical weapons program in the safest manner possible.”

Albania is one of only three nations that have declared a chemical weapons stockpile to the OPCW and destroyed it. The U.S. and Russia have also declared stockpiles but have not yet completed their destruction.

Tirana has been an avid supporter of Washington since the U.S. and NATO intervened with airstrikes in 1999 to stop a crackdown by Serb forces on rebel ethnic Albanians in neighboring Kosovo.

“Without the United States, Albanians would never have been free and independent in two countries that they are today,” Rama said in an apologetic speech.